A life principle I try to live by is to not burn bridges. You never know when you will need to cross them again. However, we often live life so pig-headedly that when we have a disagreement, we often go out in a blaze of glory, to accentuate our position. Who can forget Steven Slater’s dramatically quitting his flight attendant’s job at Jetblue.
In the Christian ministry realm, this blaze of glory is often more ugly. Not only do professional disagreements and personality clashes occur, but they are then often couched within spiritual or moral positions. This elevates the nature and stakes in any ministry split and often makes reconciliation and future working relationships impossible. Worsening the situation, many ministry fall-outs create collateral damage. Like a divorce, surrounding relationships are tested often subtly forcing church members to take sides (e.g. you can’t be friends with both me and the other person).
Is this battle worth fighting?
Just because you believe you are right does not mean that you must convince everyone else that you are right. Learning to agree to disagree is an art most of us have not mastered well. We too often take an all or nothing approach to ministry and relationships. Is it any wonder that so many ministries split or remain small? A good question to ask is “Will this personality dispute or minor theological position matter much when we are both standing before Jesus in heaven?” The answer to that question helps put many things into perspective.
If you must fight, fight the issue, not the person
The reality is that we do live in a fallen world. Sometimes there are issues that arise over which we cannot remain silent. It would be a sin to fail to speak out over some issues. In these cases we must fight. However, let’s not make it personal. I know many people who denigrate the pope as a person. My issue is not with Pope Benedict XVI (or his predecessor John Paul II). My issue is with the position of the pope. So when addressing areas where we disagree, let’s keep the issue the issue and not make it personal.
Sometimes a person’s behaviour is such an issue that the issue seems to be the person themselves. I don’t have the perfect answers to all of life’s disagreements. But if we can disagree a little less on the minor issues, then it may make the important issues have more focus. And that would be a good thing.